Long Walk Hurdle Date is Saturday, 19 December, 2021 (2:25)
Type: Grade 1 National Hunt Hurdle Race
Age Of The Horses: Four Years Old And Up
Distance: 3 Miles And 97 Yards
2019 Winner: The Worlds End
Long Walk Hurdle General Info
The Long Walk Hurdle, run at Ascot since 1965, will take place this year on Saturday December 21st and will be known as the Marsh Hurdle Race.
Staged over three miles and half a furlong, the Long Walk is a key prep for the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham but is a Grade 1 event in its own right. Worth £100,000 this year, the Long Walk Hurdle 2019 should feature the very top staying hurdlers in the country, something we’ve become accustomed to as the race has been won by some of the best in the business.
Big Buck’s, Thistlecrack and Paisley Park are just a few of the runners to have taken this before going onto success at the Festival, so this is without doubt an important race for horsemen and punters alike.
2020 Long Walk Hurdle Runners & Favourites
From 23 early closing entries, the number of possible Long Walk Hurdle runners has been reduced to 14. We now have a much better idea of those who might turn up for the race at Ascot. Here are the Long Walk Hurdle runners in 2020 which still include two Irish entries:
- Kildisart (Ben Pauling)
- Lil Rockerfeller (Neil King)
- Main Fact (David Pipe)
- Paisley Park (Emma Lavelle)
- Portrush Ted (Warren Greatrex)
- Sire Du Berlais (Gordon Elliott, IRE)*
- The Jam Man (Ronan McNally, IRE)
- The Worlds End (Olly Murphy)*
- Third Wind (Hughie Morrison)
- Thistlecrack (Colin Tizzard)
- Thomas Darby (Olly Murphy)*
- Thyme Hill (Philip Hobbs)
- Younevercall (Kim Bailey)
- Roksana (Dan Skelton)**
*Holds an early closing entry in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown on 28 December
**Receives a 7lb sex allowance as a mare
Thyme Hill (2/1)
Trainer Philip Hobbs has always thought a lot of Thyme Hill after his 2019 Champion Bumper third. He delivered throughout last season as a novice, landing the Persian War at Chepstow, a Ballymore Trial at Cheltenham and the Challow at Newbury. That made him the leading British contender for the Albert Bartlett at the Festival, but he could only finish fourth behind a trio of Irish raiders. Already a multiple Grade 2 winner, can he now land elite success in open company?
The Long Walk Hurdle ante post betting certainly believes so. Thyme Hill is favourite for this after landing the Long Distance Hurdle during the Winter Carnival at Newbury on his reappearance. He got 3lb from Paisley Park in that race, so will be worse off at the weights with just a length-and-a-half between them. As a six-year-old, rising seven, Thyme Hill remains open to further progress and is still unexposed as a stayer after just two career starts over three miles. That is why he heads the market here. With more improvement in his locker, Thyme Hill has to be taken seriously.
Paisley Park (9/4)
As a ready winner of the Long Walk Hurdle in 2018, this has been on the agenda of Paisley Park in recent seasons. Connections preferred to pull him out of defending his crown 12 months ago when the going came up desperate and deep at Ascot. He has won just one of three starts since swerving the race then, and that came in the Cleeve Hurdle on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham in January. Paisley Park is known for hitting flat spots in his races, but never got a second wind when making a defence of his Stayers’ Hurdle crown in March.
There were excuses for his disappointing seventh, however. Paisley Park lost a couple of shoes and was found to have a heart problem afterwards. Thankfully, there has been no further health issues for Emma Lavelle’s stable star who was one of the feel-good stories of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. Paisley Park made an encouraging enough return to action when a staying on second to Thyme Hill conceding weight in the Long Distance Hurdle. If the pair re-oppose in the Long Walk Hurdle, then he will be better off with the young pretender. It would be no surprise to see Paisley Park reverse form for inspirational owner Andrew Gemmell.
It looks significant that Dan Skelton mare Roksana, the shock winner of the 2019 Mares’ Hurdle during the Cheltenham Festival, skipped Newbury after taking the West Yorkshire Hurdle on her reappearance. That Grade 2 success at Wetherby came with race terms entirely in her favour, but the form has some substance to it. Next Destination, who chased her home, has since made a very taking albeit belated bow over fences for Paul Nicholls in landing the John Francome Novices’ Chase at the Winter Carnival.
Roksana went to the Relkeel Hurdle on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham last winter but, with three very good runs over three miles under her belt now, the longer trip of the Long Walk Hurdle may appeal more to her connections. If heading to Ascot, she would get a 7lb sex allowance from the boys which gives her claims. The only negative is that this track brought about her worst career performance to date when a below par fifth in the 2019 Coral Hurdle. The stamina laden dam side of her pedigree suggests a longer distance is what she needs. If going for the Long Walk Hurdle, then Roksana looks a solid each-way bet at the ante post odds on offer.
Main Fact (14/1)
Ideally, you want any racehorse you back to be in top form and there’s absolutely no doubt that Main Fact has enjoyed a purple patch for trainer David Pipe. Placing him to win nine consecutive races over hurdles and on the Flat is something you have to respect. Unexposed as a stayer, he absolutely flew home on his first start over three miles. That came in the Grade 3 Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock last month. This is the same race that arguably launched the careers of previous Long Walk Hurdle heroes Sam Spinner and Paisley Park.
Main Fact was still full of running when many toiling in the Haydock mud had cried enough. He won going away under a superbly timed ride from 7lb claimer Fergus Gillard. If booked to ride him in the Long Walk Hurdle again, however, then the Pipe stable’s conditional jockey won’t be taking any weight off. Main Fact now has to prove himself better than a handicapper, especially as the assessor has raised his rating a further 7lb to 154. He ran off 98 for his stable debut and loves a softer surface, so pulling off an upset against established stayers is far from impossible while he’s in the form of his life.
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Long Walk Hurdle Stats & Trends
A race like the Long Walk Hurdle doesn’t just have history behind it, but statistics too. This has become something of a small field race with just two renewals in the last decade having more than eight runners taking part. There are prevailing trends for the Long Walk Hurdle you should know before betting. While these do not guarantee you will find the winner when taking a punt, you are a lot more likely to make better decisions and an informed gambling choice by being aware of them. Here are key Long Walk Hurdle stats that every bettor should pay attention to:
- Most successful horses – The French trained Baracouda landed a record four renewals of the Long Walk Hurdle in the space of five seasons (2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004). Special mentions also go to Big Buck’s and Reve De Sivola who both hit hat-tricks in consecutive years.
- Most successful jockeys – Richard Johnson has a record four winning rides in the Long Walk Hurdle, after partnering Anzum (1999), Mighty Man (2006) and Reve De Sivola twice (2012 and 2013) to victory. Other active jockeys to have won the Long Walk Hurdle include Tom Scudamore (twice), Daryl Jacob, Joe Colliver, Aidan Coleman and Adrian Heskin.
- Most successful trainer – Francois Doumen saddled Baracouda to all of his wins in the race, so holds the record for most victories as a handler with four. Paul Nicholls and Nick Williams (three wins each), Alan King and Nigel Twiston-Davies (twice apiece) are other active trainers to have won the Long Walk Hurdle more than once. The last six renewals have all gone to a different trainer, so consider that.
- Most successful owner – The mighty JP McManus has owned the Long Walk Hurdle winner four times, and has also had two seconds and a third. That makes him by some way the most successful racehorse owner in this event’s history.
- Age – Four of the last nine Long Walk Hurdle winners have been eight-year-olds. Three victors in the 2010s were aged seven, so the prevailing trend is for horses in their prime. Relative youngsters cannot be entirely ruled out, however, as two six-year-olds have been successful in the last decade, while 2017 winner Sam Spinner was only five.
- Favourites – Three of the last five Long Walk Hurdle victors were the market leader. Looking longer term, seven of the previous 12 favourites obliged so it certainly pays to follow fancied horses. Over the last dozen years, the biggest starting price (SP) of any Long Walk Hurdle winner was 8/1. Ten victors were returned at odds of 9/2 or shorter, but there hasn’t been an odds-on market leader since 2011.
- Ratings – Each of the last seven Long Walk Hurdle winners were all rated above 150 by the British Horseracing Authority handicapper. Four of the six mot recent victors had a mark of between 151 and 155. Many of the horses entered in the Long Walk Hurdle this year have higher ratings than that, so bear that in mind.
Long Walk Hurdle Betting
Rest assured that, with this race being one of the most important on the National Hunt schedule, we should have plenty of Long Walk Hurdle offers being thrown at us by bookmakers nearer race time.
The usual Best Odds Guaranteed and Non-Runner No Bet deals will be in force when prices are published, but keep an eye out simply for the best value. Currently SkyBet are top-priced on more Stayers’ Hurdle candidates than anyone else, so presumably their Long Walk Hurdle betting market will be strong. Paddy Power Cheltenham offer deserves your attention too.
William Hill also seem to be fairly generous with runners in this division, something regular punters are more appreciative of than any one-off bonus deals offered up so that’s what we like to see.
Past Long Walk Hurdle Winners
|2019||The Worlds End||8||Adrian Heskin||Tom George||Did not race|
|2018||Paisley Park||6||Aidan Coleman||Emma Lavelle||1st in Stayers’ Hurdle|
|2017||Sam Spinner||5||Joe Colliver||Jedd O’Keeffe||5th in Stayers’ Hurdle|
|2016||Unowhatimeanharry||8||Barry Geraghty||Harry Fry||3rd in Stayers’ Hurdle|
|2015||Thistlecrack||7||Tom Scudamore||Colin Tizzard||1st in World Hurdle|
|2014||Reve De Sivola||9||Daryl Jacob||Nick Williams||11th in World Hurdle|
|2013||Reve De Sivola||8||Richard Johnson||Nick Williams||8th in World Hurdle|
|2012||Reve De Sivola||7||Richard Johnson||Nick Williams||4th in World Hurdle|
|2011||Big Buck’s||8||Ruby Walsh||Paul Nicholls||1st in World Hurdle|
|2010||Big Buck’s||7||Tony McCoy||Paul Nicholls||1st in World Hurdle|
What Happened in 2019?
The Long Walk Hurdle cut up badly because of desperately heavy going in 2019 with Paisley Park withdraw because of the ground. That left The Worlds End to beat what opposition lined up at Ascot, giving trainer Tom George and owners the McNeil Family an early Christmas present. Debra Hamer stable star Tobefair was also declared to run, but didn’t take him his engagement here. The race was sponsored by Marsh for the first time after they bought out the portfolio previously held by JLT. Backed into 15/8 favourite, The Worlds End made most of the running at a dark and gloomy Ascot. When he made a mistake at the second last flight, it looked as though his chance had gone.
However, The Worlds End rallied when switched after jumping the final hurdle and rallied gamely in the hands of Adrian Heskin. He got back up inside the last 75 yards to win going away from 3/1 Nicky Henderson runner L’Ami Serge by 2½ lengths. The runner-up hadn’t been seen on the track for 580 days and that lack of race fitness for the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned gelding told on the Ascot run-in. L’Ami Serge still held on for second under Nico de Boinville ahead of Oliver Sherwood’s mare Papagana, the 9/4 second-favourite. Nick Williams mudlark Agrapart didn’t fire despite having his ground, but the 11/2 outsider was only beaten five lengths in fourth for Davy Russell.